Leading With an Eye to the Future

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

In seven years AAPG will celebrate its 100th anniversary – and I believe the actions AAPG takes in the next seven years will be pivotal in preparing AAPG for its second 100 years.

It may seem ridiculous to think we can prepare such a long-range plan when there is no guarantee that the oil industry still will be relevant to society in 2117. It is certainly true the world and the oil and gas industry will change in unimaginable ways in the next 100 years, just as it has in the past 100 years.

Change is inevitable, but that does not mean that it cannot be managed.

There has been one constant for the last 93 years, and it likely will persist for the next 100 years – AAPG is first and foremost about the science of petroleum geology. We disseminate it through our publications and we archive it in Datapages, GIS-Udril and Search and Discovery. The underlying principles of petroleum geology have not changed dramatically in the last 40 years, but our understanding and application of those principles has improved greatly. It is the improvement in the tools we use to apply those principles to explore for and develop oil and gas reserves that has been truly incredible. Forty years ago, the most valuable tool a geologist could possess – besides a Brunton compass – was the ability to visualize in three dimensions. The ability to visualize a geologic interpretation in 3-D is not as important as it once was because a computer can generate it for you.

No matter how far computer technology has advanced in recent years, nor how far it will advance in the future, there never will be a substitute for the geoscientist who is able to assimilate data from multiple sources and generate a rational interpretation of the subsurface. That geoscientist needs AAPG, and we need that geoscientist. Although the medium will change, the publication of the science will continue to be the most valuable service AAPG provides to its membership.

Our publications give us credibility, and they have made us what we are. However, an organization can only last as long as it is financially sound. We have been blessed with very good financial stewardship from members and staff. AAPG has grown into a complex, $18 million per year enterprise. There is nothing inherently wrong with complexity, but it can make an organization difficult to manage. Our ability to further the science of petroleum geology and our continued financial health are inextricably linked.

One of the changes we can predict is that our membership will continue to grow outside the United States. At the growth rates we have experienced in the last 10 years, more than half our members will live in the international regions in less than 20 years. We are developing a strategy that will encourage and accommodate that growth – but in doing so, we do not want to marginalize the U.S. members who have long been and will continue to be an integral part of AAPG. We are a global industry, and the globalization of AAPG is inevitable and desirable.

At the time AAPG was formed in 1917, the number of automobiles in the world was measured in the millions. Today they are measured in the hundreds of millions. Approximately 75 percent of the crude oil consumed in the United States today is used for transportation. That compares with approximately 61 percent worldwide. Until we find a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine, crude oil will continue to be a significant part of the world’s energy picture.

AAPG members will be there, leading the search for new reserves – just as they have for the past 93 years.

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President's Column - David G. Rensink

David G. Rensink, AAPG President (2010-11), is a consultant out of Houston. He retired from Apache Corp in 2009.

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